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Chris Smalling admits speculation linking Manchester United with a new centre-back has kept him on his toes and has helped spur him on during the season.
United were linked with a move for Real Madrid centre-half Sergio Ramos during the summer before the Spaniard agreed a new long-term deal with the Spanish giants.
With his position in the team under threat, Smalling has used the speculation to inspire his form this season with the 26-year-old making 29 appearances for the club, more than any other United player.
Reflecting on the summer transfer talk, Smalling admits he has used it to his advantage, telling MUTV: "It does spur you on. When you come to Manchester United, in every transfer window - whether the team is doing well or badly - there are always players linked with the club because this club is always linked with the best players.
"It keeps you on your toes and spurs you on. You can't rest on six months of good performances because as soon as you have a blip, there is always another player to take your place."
Smalling has struggled with injury during his time at Old Trafford but he has enjoyed a relatively injury-free season - he has failed to start just once - and he is delighted to finally have the chance to prove himself to the manager.
"I have been happy with the past year, I have stayed relatively injury-free and have been able to play games, build up and keep learning. I take a lot of positives from that," he added.
"Towards the end of last season and in the summer, somebody needed to step up and make sure they were consistent. In the last couple of years we have had a lot of injuries in the centre-back positions, so in these last 12 months I have been happy and injury-free with the manager's faith.
"I don't make too many resolutions but if I can stay injury-free again then I would wish for that, and also to contribute to success with United and England."